Chinese Traditional Medicine affects the Environment

Chinese Traditional Medicine poses a substantial  risk to China’s local ecosystems and biodiversity. China’s growing middle class has growing Chinese Traditional medical desires and this creates a catalyst for poaching local unique wildlife.  Western medicine has similar problems; many of the raw ingredients in Western medicine come from ecologically rich areas like rain forests. Organism habitat loss caused by increased medicine production is a problem in both China and the rest of the World. Chinese customers are creating large demand for West African Rhino tusks, because many Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners claim that it can lead to increased fertility and sexual productivity. This claim stands blatantly false. Rhino tusk is made out of keratin the same material as finger nail, and (for probably the vast majority of people) chewing one’s fingernail doesn’t make one sex crazed (although I do wonder what Freud would say about it). In TCM Rhino horn has been used to treat fevers and convulsions, typhoid, rheumatism, gout, headaches and hallucinations, vomiting and food poisoning, Anyways, Chinese buyers are fueling Rhino deaths in Africa (Globalization!). In South Africa in 2000 less than 100 rhinos died to poaching, in 2013 1000 rhinos died. That being said, there are a myriad of other factors that could have contributed to a spike in Rhino deaths, such as better poaching techniques and demand in other regions.  In China, the sea bladder of the Totoaba (a protected animal) can go for over 10,000 USD. Chinese chefs use the bladder in soups. The Vaquita marina, the world’s smallest often gets caught in the process as bycatch. As a result there are only about 100 Vaquita left in the wild.

Fundamentally, the problem is both the size and desires of China’s massive population. As more people rise out of poverty, and as more people rise from the middle class to the upper class these people are going to be more capable of financing their demands for TCM. Even though medications are cheaper in China in America it is still necessary to ensure that these medications do not come off the backs (or tusks) of endangered animals. China must update its medical system if it wishes to help its people rise comfortably out of poverty. Quacks who peddle lies about false medicine should be prosecuted  both to protect people and to protect China’s natural beauty. Natural environments exploitation should only be allowed to create medications that actually work.


On the way to Chengdu’s Panda sanctuary we watched as workers tore into a mountain.